Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice.
When will the world rejoice? Why will the world rejoice? Not because Jesus is gone. Jesus is never really absent. He fills all things, especially in His post-resurrection, post-ascended mode. But in their perception, He’s gone, because they cannot see Him.
Yet, this is never explicitly stated. What is stated as that the disciples will not see Jesus, and they will weep and lament, and the world will rejoice. It’s almost as if the world rejoices at the disciples’ sorrow, a sort of schadenfreude.
But as we’ve been meditating all this week, there’s ambiguity as to when exactly the disciples do not “see” Jesus any longer. Jesus promised to be with His apostles and the apostolic ministry, and therefore the Church, to the end of the ages. We also learned that we “see” Jesus by faith, a faith palpably filled with His sacramental presence. (In a few weeks we’ll discuss Jesus’ presence in our neighbor.)
So, we proposed that perhaps the “little while” during which the disciples lament is not really a chronological duration, but a faith qualifier. Small faith diminishes the vision of Jesus. And what does this mean? In the context of the last two week’s Gospel, it means that the Christian can rejoice, even in the midst of tribulation, and give the thanks we give at the Eucharist, because he so firmly and confidently knows that his Lord reigns over heaven and earth, and has all authority, and is working all things for the good of the Church.
The world rejoices when Christ’s church loses “sight” of this, when the Church frets and worries about its place in the world, when it weeps and laments about the loss of membership, or political power, or the loss of Christian “rights.” Evidently there is a term out there, “Christian privilege,” meant to sweep Christians into the greater “privilege” ideology. This is the perfect set up for the unbeliever to “rejoice” in our demise. After all, so their thinking goes, we’ve had all sorts of perks and privileges for so many years. It’s about time we had our comeuppance.
Let the Church not weep and lament as if (a) Christ is not here (He is), or (b) He is not ultimately in control of everything (He is). This gives up our central mission here on earth. What is that?
It’s communion. Eucharist. Think about it. Holy Communion is our sacrifice of thanksgiving. Holy Communion is a testament that earthly elements have been redeemed, and that we take part in that. Holy Communion bring earth and heaven together as one, testifying to the truth that God’s will is being done on earth as it is in heaven. Holy Communion testifies to Christ’s death, which erases the curse. Most significantly for our point here, Holy Communion is our sacrifice of thanksgiving, our living out St. Paul’s invitation to “give thanks at all times for everything.”
“Oh give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good, and His mercy endures forever.” That prayer appropriately fits with Holy Communion. We give the sacrifice of thanksgiving because God is good.
Well, our public testimony of “giving thanks” is our statement to the world that, no matter what may be happening, we confidently, joyfully, and persistently confess that our Lord is a good God, and He has all things under His feet through His Son, Jesus Christ. The world may think Christ is gone, that they can’t see Him. But here, look at these Christians, confessing Christ’s presence, and rejoicing in His victory.
And more than that, but look how this Eucharistic sacrifice endures! It’s been going on weekly for two thousand years. It’s seen empires come and go. The meeting of Christians for this purpose – along with hearing and learning God’s Word (but that’s still something you can do on your own time; the main reason why a church needs to gather is for the Eucharist) – has been a threat to empire after empire, and somehow, the Eucharist endures, while the empires lay in ashes.
What sort of power is that? It’s the power of the Lord who reigns over all things, whose throne is in the praises of His people gathered together.
The world rejoices when God’s people lose sight of their Lord. The Eucharist, and all that it means for us theologically, is the antidote to that. Where the Eucharist is faithfully going on, when Christ’s disciples see Him, rejoice, and give thanks (as they do in receiving the Eucharist), there is no rejoicing in the world, but only fear.